The recent hospitalisation of two Cabinet Secretaries and a number of other high-ranking government officials who were taken ill with cholera should prompt authorities into action. The reason is simple; like all other communicable diseases, prevention is more effective than the cure.
Cholera an acute, diarrheal illness caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae afflicts 5 million people and is the cause of 100,000 deaths each year around the world. The main causes include inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation and poor hygiene. That means the sure weapon to fight off a cholera outbreak is cleanliness.
Ordering the immediate closure of all open air eateries within Nairobi, while a first critical step, does not address the underlying problem.
When doctors attending a conference at the Weston Hotel in Nairobi were infected with cholera, the government, perhaps embarrassed and fearing the negative effects the outbreak could have on the tourism industry, tried to deny it through the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Cleopa Mailu.
That denial could have a direct bearing on the latest outbreak that has seen more than 35 people, including the government functionaries, hospitalised. Evidently, the authorities sat back after initial fears of an outbreak.
Is the public health function in the Ministry of Health a reactionary role? The proliferation of untidy eateries in major cities and towns which do not observe health guidelines and the deplorable condition of most of the food places and markets should prompt authorities into action.
It is easy to argue that given the affluent areas in which the two cases of cholera have been reported, poor hygiene practice is not the culprit, rather, the possibility that water being supplied to the city is contaminated.
Most importantly, the apparent ineptitude by the Nairobi County Government-through the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company-to address issues of water problems in the city makes a recurrence more, not less likely. With healthcare workers on strike, everything should be done to prevent a large scale outbreak.